Cape Cod Contractor Faces $34,200 in Fines for Nantucket Cave-in

Bortolotti Construction Inc., a Marstons Mills, Mass.-based contractor, faces $34,200 in fines from OSHA for an unprotected trench and other hazards at a construction site on Hummock Pond Road on the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts. The company was cited for alleged repeat and serious violations of safety standards following an Oct. 17 OSHA inspection that found employees installing a water line in a five-foot, five-inch- by six-foot, eight-inch-deep trench that lacked any protective system to prevent its sidewalls from collapsing. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations five feet or deeper be guarded against cave-ins.

"Employees should never be allowed into an excavation until it is properly and effectively protected against collapse," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree, Mass. "The prospect for death or catastrophic injury is always present, as a cave-in can overwhelm and bury employees beneath tons of soil and debris before they can react or escape."

The cave-in hazard was exacerbated by the piling of excavated material at the edge of the trench, which could have undermined the trench's walls and fallen onto the employees, OSHA said. There also was no ladder or other safe means to exit the trench and no head protection for the employees in the trench. OSHA had cited Bortolotti in March for similar hazards at a Mashpee, Mass., jobsite. Consequently, four repeat citations, carrying $22,200 in fines, were issued for these conditions at the Nantucket worksite.

Additionally, during the Nantucket inspection, OSHA found water accumulating in the bottom of the trench, determined that there had been no inspection by a competent person to identify and correct trenching hazards, and found that a damaged sling was being used to lift sections of pipe. These three conditions resulted in four serious citations with $12,000 in proposed fines. OSHA inspectors who encounter excavations in the course of their duties will stop and open inspections on the spot, as happened in this case. To help employers understand how to comply with regulations and protect employees, OSHA has posted a trenching "Quick Card," an interactive eTool, and other detailed information on excavation safety on its Web site at www.osha.gov/SLTC/constructiontrenching/index.html.

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